COP27: Was the climate summit a flop amid failure to tackle causes of global warming?

Cop-out, flop, failure, tragic. These are just some of the words that have been used to describe the latest round of United Nations climate talks, which finally concluded on Sunday after two weeks of deliberations ran over into extra time.

The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP) had ‘implementation’ at the top of the bill, with host country Egypt on a mission to get the ball rolling on commitments made in Glasgow last year. And for the first time ever at a COP, the issue of loss and damage – reparations for poor nations suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis – made the agenda.

There was a historic win on loss and damage, with a better result than many believed possible. Nations committed to set up a financial support structure for the most vulnerable by the next COP, due to be held in Dubai next year, as bills for extreme weather soar to over $200 billion annually. Around £300m of new funding has so far been promised.

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But most commentators have concluded that efforts to address the causes of climate breakdown – namely emissions from burning fossil fuels and destruction of nature – are no further forward.

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Some have described the conference as like watching a “repeat” of COP26, with leaders standing up and announcing pretty much the same pledges they made on a different continent 12 months ago. Even the UK’s outgoing COP26 president Alok Sharma this week recycled the same words he used in Glasgow to describe the perilous state of the Paris Agreement’s goal to restrict global warming to 1.5C after the talks ended, saying the target was “on life support”.

There was disappointment at COP26, when the final draft of the Glasgow Pact watered down language to say coal would be phased “down”, not out, and only “inefficient” subsidies for fossil fuels ended. Fears have been raised that vague wording in the COP27 document, which lists “low emissions” energy alongside renewables as future power sources, could offer a loophole to justify new fossil fuel development.

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In his opening speech to conference attendees in Sharm El-Sheikh, UN secretary-general António Guterres warned: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” And it seems there’s no real intention to apply the brakes.

The United Nations climate summit COP27 has been branded a failure with regard to efforts to tackle the causes of climate but the establishment of a fund for loss and damage. to developing countries suffering the worst effects of climate change -- like Pakistan, which was hit this year by deadly flooding -- has been welcomed. Photo: Zahid Hussain/AP

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